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Spring Mills elementary to be West Virginia's first green public school

Added up-front investment could save as much as 40 percent in energy costs

Added up-front investment could save as much as 40 percent in energy costs

September 30, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Construction of West Virginia's first "green" public school - in northern Berkeley County - should begin next spring, state and county officials confirmed Monday.

The new elementary school to be built at the Spring Mills campus at W.Va. 901 and U.S. 11 will be a "prototype" for energy and environment conservation-minded construction for the rest of the state, West Virginia School Building Authority Executive Director Mark A. Manchin said Monday while traveling to Martinsburg for a meeting.

The SBA in June selected Berkeley County's new school to be the state's pilot project for certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system.

The five-tier rating system (certified, bronze, silver, gold and platinum) of environmentally sustainable construction was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, which earlier this month kicked off an initiative to work with state lawmakers in all 50 states to promote green school buildings. Spring Mills is expected to be built for a silver rating certification.

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"We first broached (LEED) about a year ago," said Manchin, who noted that none of the state's public schools have been certified and expressed doubt that many other buildings were, either.

In June, David Sneed, SBA's chief of architectural services, recommended that the authority annually select one school among projects funded by the state agency to be designed to obtain silver-level LEED certification.

Berkeley County Schools received $10 million from the SBA in April for the Spring Mills project. With the added LEED certification standards, Manchin said the SBA decided to authorize up to $1 million more for the project and was "entirely prepared" to allocate more, if needed.

Manchin anticipates the added up-front investment will result in up to 40 percent savings in energy costs and improved learning environments with more natural lighting and adjustments in acoustics.

Once in place, the environmental improvements will then be used as a built-in learning tool for the students, Manchin said.

Among various building systems being explored are water faucets that turn themselves off and a geothermal-based heating and cooling system, Manchin said. The HVAC system takes advantage of the near constant temperature below the earth's surface (56 degrees Fahrenheit) to reduce the cost of heating and cooling air, Manchin said.

Such a system was installed at Great Seneca Elementary School in Germantown, Md., which became Maryland's first public school to be certified by the Green Building Council, according to an April 2007 news release by Montgomery County Public Schools.

Berkeley County Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II and the school district's architectural firm, Williamson Shriver Architects Inc., were part of a group that visited the school last month to see what was done to obtain LEED certification, Berkeley County Schools Director of Communications Jaimee Borger said Monday.

In addition to the heating system, no-flush (bathroom) technology, low-flow water fixtures and wheatboard (replacing particle board for cabinets) was used at the 82,500-square-foot facility, according to Montgomery County school officials.

Since its inception in 1998, LEED has grown to include more than 14,000 projects in all 50 states and 30 countries.

The Spring Mills school is one of 10 LEED registered projects in West Virginia, according to the Green Building Council's Web-based directory. The U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center in Martinsburg and a federal facility in Kearneysville, W.Va., also were registered. The West VIrginia Department of Environmental Protection's headquarters in Charleston, W.Va., was the only building on the Council's "certified projects list" with a silver rating.

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